My father comes to town on business on a fairly regular basis. In "return" for a night or two free of charge at casa de motherocker, he takes me and husband out for dinner. Sometimes he has places he wants to try (Frontera Grill, Customhouse) but more often than not, he gives me a price point and I get to go to town.
One of the fun things about the Chicago restaurant scene is that there are about a majillion different amazing restaurants, so we've never gone to the same place twice. (Unless it was to bring somebody new, like my Moms) I find out about restaurants through a variety of channels including:
Friends Recommendations (Of Course! Although I tend to forget them immediately)
Written Reviews (Phil Vettel-in the paper and on metromix, Gourmet magazine, etc.)
LTH Food Forum (my absolute favorite, they have never once steered me wrong)
In fact, I have visited 2 restaurants that I read about on LTH within the past 2 weeks, Sweets and Savories and Scylla. Both experiences were right on target with the comments I had read about them on the forum.
Sweets and Savories is located at Fullerton and Ashland. It's a small storefront and the line is that the food is amazing but the service is spotty at best and not what you would expect for the price point. I wanted to try it because of all the raves about the food, which was very good indeed, although some dishes were more successful than others. We had a pleasant service experience. My take on it is that it is a 2 man shop with the one in front handling all the service with the help of a bartender and a couple of assistants. With as many tops as they have, if they all seat at once you are going to find yourself in the weeds pretty quick which I'm guessing leads to a cranky waiter. I ultimately had to agree with everyone else though, if you are paying approximately $75 per person (including drinks but not tip) than one expects tip-top service and for there to be beer behind the bar, possibly higher-end decor as well- no matter how good the food is.
If the price points for S&S had been similar to those at Scylla, I think I could have excused a lot more, although there was nothing to be excused at Scylla. (Damen and Armitage) It is a charming room with warmth and character. The downstairs had live music (a vocalist and bass player) which wafted up to the upstairs dining room. The service was smooth and polished but relaxed. And the food? Awesome. There was only one dish of four of us with 2 courses that wasn't a knock-out. The portions were perfect- we even had room for dessert, which I almost never do. Dad had Ricotta fritters that were light and airy as all get out. (Husband also had light gnocchi- which I had heard about but never actually eaten before.) The highest priced entree is $18 and you can't beat that, not for this quality. The dishes are inventive but not so creative you don't know what you're eating. Perfect for dining with friends, bringing the rents, or even romance.